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‘Loser’ review: Priyadarshi, Annie and Kalpika walk away with the honours

Priyadarshi, Annie and Shashank in the series

Priyadarshi, Annie and Shashank in the series   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

An anthology of three sports stories, Abhilash Reddy’s ‘Loser’ is the new addition to the landscape of Telugu web series

If you’re considered a misfit and called a loser all along, and destiny finally smiles on you, does that victory belong solely to you? Or is it a moment of vindication for others who had lost to make you win? Zee5’s new Telugu web series Loser poses this question and the answer lies in its anthology of three stories, effectively interlinked to present a sports drama that faintly reminds us of Jersey and Dear Comrade.

Directed by Abhilash Reddy, the 10-episode series (each approximately of 30-minute duration) has a good cast, close-to-reality setting, and explores three time frames.

2007: Suri Yadav (Priyadarshi Pulikonda)’s workshop is a defunct rice mill. He paints movie posters and larger-than-life cutouts of movie stars to make a living. The bright colours on the posters are in contrast to his bleak lifestyle. Suri struggles to make ends meet but that doesn’t deter him from playing what’s considered a rich man’s sport — he’s an air rifle shooter and stands a chance to compete at the National level, provided he can cough up a few lakh rupees for a new, imported rifle. When he signs the contract, aware of the uphill task, the poster paint is still visible on his hands.

Loser
  • Cast: Priyadarshi, Annie, Shashank, Kalpika Ganesh
  • Direction: Abhilash Reddy
  • Streaming on Zee5

1993: In Hyderabad’s Old City, the Class X student Ruby Shabana (Annie) defies her orthodox father (Shayaji Shinde) and trains for badminton on the sly. An erstwhile rice mill is her training ground. The milieu of this story rings authentic, taking us into the Lad Bazaar and its vicinity, but never once glamorising the Old City with touristy images of the bazaar or the Charminar. Shabana’s world is bereft of glitz and colour and she’s stoic in pursuing her dream, aware of the mounting pressure to be wedded off early.

1985: Hyderabad Vs Bombay Ranji cricket match is in progress at Gymkhana Ground, Secunderabad, and a few selectors from the cricket board are visiting, to select a fast bowler. Wilson (Shashank) is the star fast bowler in the Hyderabad team and he has to tackle rivalry in the team and his middle class financial struggles. His biggest foe, though, is his own temperament.

Loser briskly moves between the three worlds, helped by cinematographer Naresh Ramadurai, production designer Manisha A Dutt and Sriram Maddury’s music. The shifts between the 2000s and 1990s felt more effortless than the shift to and from the 1980s, partly because of its black and white mode.

The 30-minute duration of each episode works in Loser’s favour, as the stories don’t get stretched needlessly. The links between the three stories are established beautifully. I particularly liked the seamless connect between Ruby and Suri.

Among the three, I found it easier to empathise with Suri and Ruby and not so much with Wilson. Maybe that’s the way it’s intended to be — Wilson’s predicament is partly due to his own making, apart from sports politics. Thankfully, Loser makes its characters introspect.

The sore aspect is the never-ending hurdles faced by the three protagonists. After a point, it gets overwhelming. The wastrel brother and the abusive husband are two characters that are there just to add to the trouble, but not well fleshed out.

The sports drama touches upon sexual harassment and shows two sides of a coin, both of which are believable — one girl who doesn’t speak up and it’s understandable given her socio-economic background, and another girl refusing to bow down, thanks to her mother who ingrained in her the importance of standing up for herself.

The casting is spot on. The actors come without the baggage of stardom, making their plight easily relatable. Annie as the young Ruby and Kalpika Ganesh as Ruby in her late 20s come up with bravura performances. Shayaji Shinde is convincing, yet again, and Sathya Krishnan makes an impression. Shashank imbues both aggression and helplessness while Komalee Prasad as his wife Asha is cast in a part that doesn’t give her a range of emotions to portray, but is still effective.

Pavani Gangireddy as Pallavi is gracious, and Viren Thambidorai manages to come across as the creepy, manipulative man of position and privilege.

Above all, it’s Priyadarshi who quietly draws attention. Despite his mainstream film popularity, he retains the everyman kind of relatability. Loser is a good follow-up to his work in Mallesham. A few minutes into the series and it’s easy to think of Priyadarshi as just Suri. The credit also goes to the writers (Abhishek Reddy, Sai Bharadwaj and Shravan Madala) for not making Suri a flawless hero, especially in the final episodes when he doesn’t throw his weight around someone close to him who needs his support more than ever.

Loser is currently streaming on Zee5

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 3:25:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/loser-review-priyadarshi-annie-and-kalpika-walk-away-with-the-honours/article31599749.ece

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